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Micro RC Combat Force and Stunt Car
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Date 23rd January 2004
Author James "Agg" Rolfe
Vendor Toy Range

As well as the Shenqiwei Micro RC Car I reviewed earlier, PCRange (or rather, their new RC toys offshoot, Toy Range) sent over a few more RC cars. Well, not exactly cars as such..

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The first is this little tank, called Combat Force according to the box. No, it doesn't shoot anything. No, the turret isn't controlled by remote - although it can be moved around. In a similar vein to the micro RC car craze of last year, this little tank is good for exploring a mini Stalingrad on your desk or cruising around on carpet.

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It comes in the same snowglobe-like pack as the micro car, but wrapped in a cardboard box with an instruction sheet. The controller takes three AA batteries and is used to charge the tank itself. The battery lid is secured with a screw, removing my main annoyance about the micro rc car's controller by stopping the lid from popping off. Charging is slightly different from the RC car, in that you stick the tank to the front of the controller and not the side. I found the tank needed several charges to get going, but after 2 or 3 sessions on the charger it seems happy to zoom around for a few minutes.

It's slower than the cars, of course, but the little rubber tracks are a lot more tolerant of rough surfaces than the tiny wheels on a micro RC car. The car would get stuck on a simple phone cord if it hit it at the wrong angle, whereas the tank will happily grind on over it. It's not too hard to find a situation where the little tank gets stuck, though - particularly if it beaches itself with a track on either side of an obstacle.

Steering takes a little getting used to. Note that the two-stick controller isn't in the traditional "one for throttle, one for steering" layout. You have two throttle sticks, each of which controls a track on one side of the tank. Both sticks forward, tank rolls forward. Both sticks backwards, tank rolls backwards. One forward and the other unmoved, the tank will rotate around the stationary track. One forward and one backwards makes the tank spin around in place - quite literally turning on a dime, if you happened to have one handy.

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The review unit seemed to wander off to one side while driving forward or backwards, but unlike the micro car there's no steering trim. If yours did this to the point where it was uncontrollable, I imagine the 30-day warranty from PCRange would come in handy. I'll cope. I dropped it from waist height onto a tiled floor at one point and it dislodged the little clear dome on the turret, but apart from that it seems quite tough. It survived the ritual trial-by-Max admirably. They were originally $19, but have since dropped to $13. Quite a fun little toy!

Stunt Car
The second vehicle is basically a normal car, except for one bizarre difference. It's a stunt car, where the front wheels don't steer, but instead the entire front of the car rotates around the roll axis while the rear section remains still. I assume these are the same stunt cars that several thousand Taiwanese gentlemen tried to sell me via email before Xmas, or at least very similar.

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Packaged much the same as the Combat Force RC tank, it follows the same basic idea of charging the car from the controller, which also takes three AA batteries. Once again the details are different - this time there's a jack sticking out of the side of the controller which goes into a socket on the bottom of the car. This car is also the only one so far to have an ON-OFF switch on the car itself. The battery lid has a screw to secure it. It takes a little longer than the other cars to charge, perhaps a couple of minutes or so, but I got bored waiting for the thing to run its little capacitor down. It just keeps going and going - great run time, despite it having a bright red LED that is on whenever it's moving.

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Big wheels and high ground clearance mean this car wins hands down over the little tank and the micro car in the climbing-obstacles stakes. It also gets a decent turn of speed up so you can jump over some things - and if it ends up on its back, no problem, it has a pair of smaller wheels on a bogey to help it get back onto its main wheels - or you can keep going on those other wheels, provided you have a drive wheel touching the ground somewhere.

The bizarreness doesn't end there. If we ignore the controller insisting it's a "micro scale r/c happy tip lorry", you can't help but notice the Joker-like grimace, complete with teeth, on the nose of the car. Creepy. Still, the nose is entirely metal while the body is enclosed in a strong plastic shell. I think the only way this car's electrics are going to be damaged is if you stomp on it or throw it into a pool.

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That's a good thing, because steering is, well, optional. Pressing either of the traditional "turn now please" buttons on the controller results in the car rearing up as the front axle rotates, making the left front wheel now the right and vice versa. Except it spins so fast, this transition happens several times a second, with the net result that the car flings itself into the air and skitters around like a demented beetle. Even Max was unsure what to make of it and retired to the backyard, no doubt wondering where the little chewy tank went.

This particular feature means it's almost impossible for the Stunt Car to get stuck somewhere. Even if you get beached on an obstacle or roll onto the side, pressing buttons at random results in enough motion to get you out of trouble. The range is good as well - my office is a converted double garage and it would freely run all around this space, at times being fifteen feet or more from the controller.

Click to Enlarge

With practice, you can get pretty good at controlling the stunt car, even pointing it in roughly the direction you want it to go. The front section is fairly loosely attached on the review unit, which means the front wheels will point slightly in one direction or the other, adding a degree of randomness to even normal forward movement. However, I think this little car has become my favourite of the three I've reviewed so far. I can imagine the hilarity of kids (or drunk adults) trying to make their stunt cars go around a marked-out track. Again for $13, it's excellent fun value for your dollar.

Thanks to Toy Range for the review samples. Look for their new website launching later this evening, including some fairly serious gas-powered 1/10-scale cars, etc.


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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